Google Editions: My e-book feature wish list

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.

Google is launching an e-book store this summer, and the only way I could be more excited is if I actually knew anything about the service, dubbed Google Editions. The sparse details Google has provided tell us only that books will be stored in the cloud, making them accessible on many devices through many satellite online retailers. As for the service’s look, feel, and features, we’re in the dark. So here’s a list of things I’d like to see:

Lend to friends

Barnes & Noble’s Nook lets users share each book once with a friend for up to two weeks, during which time the owner can’t read the book. It’s a limited system, but it’s better than nothing, and I’m hoping that if Google’s cloud book service uses a login system to keep tabs on ownership, publishers will be more willing to relax their restrictions. But probably not.

Used book market

In a perfect world, Google would set up a second-hand marketplace for e-books. With books in the cloud, it makes sense because Google could simply switch access on and off through user accounts. To keep publishers happy, Google would pay sellers in book store credit, therefore encouraging more sales. And of course once you’ve sold a book, you wouldn’t be able to read it anymore.

Make it pretty

The interface for the existing Google Books is functional, but not a lot of fun. Google should take a page from Apple’s iBooks for Google Editions, mimicking ideas like the virtual bookshelf, animated page turns, and even the ability to play with the edges of virtual pages as you read. Minor touches like these go a long way towards making e-reading as enjoyable as the real thing.

Sweet mobile Web apps

This is a golden opportunity for Google to prove that Web apps are the future. Like Google Voice for the iPhone, Google Editions should be a Web app that doesn’t seem like a Web site, packed with features like bookmarks, a dictionary, highlights, annotations, and adjustable font sizes. Bonus points if Google can make Web apps optimized for the Kindle’s and Nook’s primitive browsers.

Give indies a hand

Google Editions won’t be limited to one Web site, as Google plans to let independent sellers set up their own digital storefronts. This feature shouldn’t settle for being a lifeless selection of obscure books. Indie bookstores should get the ability to interact with their online customers through live recommendations by chat or VoIP and news feeds of what’s happening at the physical store. Otherwise, the storefront is just a limited selection of what you could get at Google’s mothership.

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